|Native name: |
|Area||167.7 km2 (64.7 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||1,017 m (3,337 ft)|
|Highest point||Mount Tefatua|
|Overseas collectivity||French Polynesia|
|Capital and largest city||Uturoa  (pop. 3,778)|
|Pop. density||72 /km2 (186 /sq mi)|
Raiatea (Tahitian: Ra'i?tea), is the second largest of the Society Islands, after Tahiti, in French Polynesia. The island is widely regarded as the 'centre' of the eastern islands in ancient Polynesia and it is likely that the organised migrations to Hawai'i, New Zealand and other parts of East Polynesia started at Raiatea.
Situated on the southeast coast is the historical Taputapuatea marae which was established by 1000 AD.
The main township on Raiatea is Uturoa, the administrative centre for the Leeward Islands (French Îles Sous-le-vent). There are also colleges which serve as the main educational location for secondary schools for students from the regional islands of Bora Bora, Tahaa, Huahine and Maupiti.
The Tahitian language name Ra'i?tea means bright sky; Ulieta is an obsolete transcription commonly used in the 19th century. The term recurs elsewhere in East Polynesia as a local place name - on Rarotonga (Rangiatea), New Zealand (Rangi?tea), Hawai'i and O'ahu (Lani?kea).
The islands of Raiatea and Tahaa are enclosed by a single coral reef, and may once have been a single island. Raiatea is both the largest and most populated island in the Leeward Islands, with a land area of 167.7 km2 (64.7 sq mi) and a total population of 12,024 inhabitants at the August 2007 census. The population density is 72 inhabitants per km². The largest commune of Raiatea is Uturoa on the north side of Raiatea and has a population of nearly 10,000.
The first European to record sighting Raiatea was Pedro Fernandes de Queirós in 1606; it was charted as La Fugitiva. The Polynesian navigator, Tupaia, who sailed with explorer James Cook, was born in Raiatea around 1725.
Cook visited Raiatea in 1769 and again in 1773-1774.:214-218,284-291,315-318Omai (c.1751-1780), another young man from Raiatea, travelled with European explorers to London in 1774 and also served as an interpreter to Captain Cook on his second and third journey.
King Tamatoa VI was the last monarch, reigning from 1884-1888.
The island is divided into three administration communes (municipalities):
The island economy is mainly agricultural with exports of vanilla, pineapple and coconut. The plant Nono (or noni) (Morinda citrifolia) is also grown. Fa'aroa Valley is a large and important agricultural region with the rural economy and the cultivation of vanilla supported by a local research facility. Pearl farming is also an important industry while farming cattle, sheep and pigs has recently decreased. There is less tourism compared to the other islands in the archipelago. The local tourist infrastructure comprises boarding houses, two marinas, a four star hotel, The Hawaiki Nui and a port for visiting cruise ships. There is also a fledgling local industry in the maintenance of yachts and shipbuilding. The main source of employment is the island's public service and the consumer market.
An island south of Raiatea with Huahine island in the background
View of Pora Pora from Raiatea.
Vanilla pods drying in the sun.
We had just left an island called Raiatea, which was about 300 miles west of Tahiti.